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Their Arms and Their Man: Musharraf Gives and Takes For Bush-Cheney

Christopher Brauchli

Obsequiousness begets friends. . . .
Publius Terentius Afer , Andria

If you thought all the Pakistanis got for their friendship with George W. Bush was a lawsuit and eventually a bunch of F-16s think again. (The F-16s last flew into the newswires in September 2006. They were first promised to Pakistan in the late 1980s but after a down payment was made, the Defense Department changed its mind. Pakistan sued to get its money back and eventually settled for a bunch of money and white wheat worth $60 million. A short while later the United States said Pakistan could have the planes but the radars would be programmed in such a way that they could only detect aircraft flying from non-NATO enemy countries like China or India but not those flying from NATO-enemy countries like France or Britain. Unhappy with this programming, on September 22, 2006 it was reported in the Pakistani Weekly that the Pakistanis had refused to sign the agreement consummating the deal. January 10, 2007 it was reported that Northrop Grumman Corporation had been given a contract to build 52 F-16 aircraft for the Pakistan Air Force. Pakistan's pique had peaked and the purchase was moving ahead).

The F-16s are simply one part of Mr. Musharraf´s reward for being a faithful disciple of George W. Bush. For information about another we have to thank the Center for Public Integrity.

In a report released March 27, 2007, it was disclosed that Pakistan has been rewarded for its warm friendship with Mr. Bush by being made the most favored beneficiary of a new post-9/11 program that the Defense Department informally refers to as the Coalition Support Funds (CSF). CSF sends money to those countries that have helped in the fight against terrorism. According to the report, in the three years that preceded 9/11, Pakistan received $9.1 million in military aid. In the three years after 9/11 it received $4.2 billion in military aid. Only Israel and Egypt received more aid. Before 9/11 Pakistan received less military aid than Estonia or Panama. Since 9/11 Pakistan has received more than $10 billion in overall aid including military aid.

Much of the aid to Pakistan has been disbursed without any controls or demands for accountability. As explained by Tim Rieser, the majority clerk on the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on State, Foreign Operation, and Related Programs, ¨With the possible exception of Iraq reconstruction funds, I've never seen a larger blank check for any country than for the Pakistan CSF program¨. He went on to tell the Center that the Republican congress ¨did next to nothing to track what was done with the money. He called CSF "a backwater of lax oversight and poor accountability. ¨ That is great for the Pakistanis. It is not so great for the Congress that from time to time likes to know where money it has appropriated is spent.

The good news is even though Pakistan is free to spend the allowance Mr. Bush's Defense Department gives it any way it wants, accounting to no one, the money has made a difference and Pakistan is on its way to becoming more of a democracy with every passing day. Of course there are occasional lapses.

In late March Mr. Musharraf suspended Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry the chief justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court. No reasons were given for the suspension but a report in the International Herald Tribune quotes some Pakistani lawyers as attributing his suspension to too much judicial independence including overturning the privatization of a steel mill that was sold for less than fair market value and taking up cases of "forced disappearances" of people who have been imprisoned and hidden away without due process of law. (The U.S. State Department issued a report in March that was critical of the alleged disappearance of political dissidents in Pakistan).

Another brief lapse occurred when Amna Buttar, an American citizen and physician who has been engaged in human rights work in Pakistan participated in an April 3 demonstration in support of the suspended chief justice. According to a report in Pakistan's Daily Times, she was physically assaulted and molested by Musharraf sponsored Anti-terrorist Squad members. None of the officials present to whom she immediately reported the assault responded. The assault is probably the result of Dr. Buttar's inability to follow instructions. According to the Daily Times, she said that through family members she had received warnings from top officials in intelligence agencies to stop raising human rights issues. She was told "the intelligence agencies are so active that they could shoot you dead in New York City". Had followed instructions and not demonstrated she would not have been assaulted.

When Dick Cheney visited Pakistan in January he said Mr. Musharraf should do more to control terrorists on his borders. Nothing has been heard from Mr. Cheney or Mr. Bush about Justice Chaudry's suspension or Dr. Buttar's assault. Nothing will be heard. They neither know nor care about human rights.

Christopher Brauchli

For political commentary see my web page

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